Sunday, February 8, 2015


On January 28, I went to Kevan Atteberry's book launch party for BUNNIES!!! It was great!

A huge crowd showed up at University Book Store for the event. Kevan read the story twice, the way one might with children, so all could anticipate the words and rhythm. Kids in the audience got into it, which was really fun. BUNNIES!!! is silly and sweet, and it's sure to cause giggles and smiles in children. And adults.

I had my picture taken with Kevan before the reading, and I got a bunny hug!

Kevan is uber-talented, and he's an incredibly nice person. I have a tremendous respect for him, personally and professionally, and I'm quite certain everyone who knows him feels the same way. Seriously. He's that good of a guy. And while I think he can probably draw anything, he has a special fondness for lovable monsters. The main character in BUNNIES!!! is Declan, a friendly monster with a pom-pom tail. He stands behind a tree on the cover, but there's no hiding how adorable he is.

BUNNIES!!! by Kevan Atteberry
Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins

There were carrots and other bunny-friendly foods at the party, and also a beautiful cake! Here's Kevan with the cake. Don't you love the ears?

It's wonderful when hard-working, talented writers and illustrators succeed. When it's someone with a ginormous heart--someone who does so much to help other people--it's the best. Yay for Kevan and BUNNIES!!!

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*This is the post I wrote about the time Kevan gave my daughter a special drawing.

*Here is a link to Kevan's books.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Cover reveal: 52 LIKES by Medeia Sharif

I'm excited to be a part of author Medeia Sharif''s latest cover reveal.

Are you ready?

Here it is!

52 LIKES by Medeia Sharif
Release date: January 16, 2015

Such a cool cover! Here's the blurb:

After a brutal rape and near-murder, Valerie wants to get past feelings of victimhood from both the assault and her history of being bullied. She's plagued by not knowing the identity of her rapist and by the nasty rumors in school about that night. Valerie follows clues from ghostly entities, past victims of the rapist-murderer, contacting her through a social media site--why do all of their eerie photographs have 52 likes under them? Their messages are leading her to the mystery man, although he'll put up a fight to remain hidden.

Sounds like a great read--very suspenseful!

Most of you probably already know Medeia. She supports so many bloggers by reviewing their books and visiting their blogs. I was lucky to meet Medeia at one of the SCBWI summer conferences in L.A., which was so much fun. She's super nice!

Congrats to you, Medeia! You work hard, and it's inspiring to see you succeed!

Find Medeia -- YA and MG Author

Blog   -   Twitter   -   Goodreads   -   Instagram   -   Amazon  

Monday, December 29, 2014

Learning from other writers

Lately, I've been revising one of my close-but-no-cigar projects, one of two manuscripts that made me a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest, earned me compliments and page requests, and seemed bound to be a book (pun intended).

An agent I met at a manuscript consultation told me he felt this project should really be middle-grade and not YA. I wasn't sure at first. I let his words simmer, played with the manuscript both ways, and kept moving it in and out of the drawer, working on it around other manuscripts. I realized the agent was right, it would be better as a middle-grade novel. I believe in this project, and it still excites me. Now, of course, I have a massive revision on my hands. In some ways, though, it's more like a first draft rather than a revision.

This brings me to today's topic: learning from other writers. This is what we do, right? As we work to improve our own novels, reading published books can be lessons in craft. For example, reading books by some authors inspires me to work harder on my descriptions or setting, and reading the work of others helps juice up my voice. These days I've been thinking quite a bit about pacing in my writing, so that seems to be what I've been appreciating in my reading as well.

CRESS by Marissa Meyer
(Feiwel & Friends, February 2014)

I'm currently flying through CRESS by Marissa Meyer. CRESS is the third book in the Lunar Chronicles series, and it is such a fun series! The fourth book, FAIREST: LEVANA'S STORY, comes out January 27, 2015. I can't wait!

(Feiwel & Friends, January 2015)

Here is the summary of CINDER, the first book in the series. The link will also give you a peek at the opening. Warning: the series is completely addictive. What makes this extra cool is the author's super nice. In 2012, Marissa Meyer kindly granted me an interview for an article I was writing for a local library. There's no direct link to the article; otherwise, I'd share it here.

I love so much about this series. One thing that impresses me a ton is the pacing in each book. The author's world building is fabulous, but none of the details weigh down the story. Marissa Meyer has mastered pacing.

WILD by Cheryl Strayed
(Knopf, March 2012)

Another book I'd like to mention is WILD: FROM LOST TO FOUND ON THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL. It's a memoir by Cheryl Strayed. Most of what I read and blog about is YA or MG. While this is neither, I recommend it. Here is the summary.

I first heard about WILD when Reese Witherspoon was filming the movie down in Oregon, and, as a Reese Witherspoon fan, I planned to see it. (Confession: every time I watch SWEET HOME ALABAMA, I want to get my hair cut like her character's--and I have at least twice.) I didn't plan to read the book until I heard people talking about it, saying it was excellent. The power of word of mouth! Suddenly, I needed to read it right before the movie came out on December 3. But then I never saw the movie. Go figure. If you've seen it and you think I should, let me know in the comments! Also, with all this talk of pacing, I should probably note that cutting this paragraph would help the pacing of this post. Hee!

Back to my thoughts on the book! Strayed's descriptions are beautiful, and the setting is alive and vivid. Her raw emotions make her story feel honest, and one can't help rooting for and worrying about her. Since her journey is physically and emotionally an epic one, it's the perfect set up for a good story. It's a unique and compelling read. WILD is an interesting, heart-touching story that's well-told.

Something I admire as a writer: Though her trek is long and arduous, the story doesn't drag. The book's a page-turner. When Strayed flashes from the trail to memories, it adds depth to the story and also gives the reader a change of setting. It allows the reader to read dialogue rather than forcing him or her to stay in the protagonist's head for too long, which--in my opinion--improves the pacing.

Have you read any of the Lunar Chronicles or WILD? Which authors have been wowing you the most lately? Has any actor or actress ever inspired you to change your hair? Also, should I see WILD?

Happy 2015! 

Saturday, November 1, 2014


I heard Erik Larson speak years ago (2003? 2004?) when one of his books had just come out, and his talk stuck with me. I'd never heard of a book like his, and I was blown away by the amount of research he'd done. The book: THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY: MURDER, MAGIC, AND MADNESS AT THE FAIR THAT CHANGED AMERICA.

Larson focuses his story on the main architect of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the serial killer who capitalized on the crowds brought by the fair. Creepy premise, right? Here's where you need to hang on to your corsets: the story is nonfiction!

My daughter, a college student, has always loved nonfiction, and I told her about DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY last year, before I'd even read it--as I said, Erik Larson's talk stuck with me. She read the book and told me I had to read it.

I'm so glad I did!

The 1893 World's Fair comes to life in Larson's book. His meticulous research tells of late 19th century Chicago, bringing the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the time to the page. He captures the people of the era--their hopes, fears, concerns, and realities--zooming in on two unique men whose lives unexpectedly intertwine. Larson weaves all of his facts into a beautifully crafted story. It might be described as "real history meets CSI," and it's fascinating.

I finished reading the book in early September, but I keep thinking about it. Much like Larson's talk, his book seems to be sticking with me.

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The book won an Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime, and it was a National Book Award Finalist. Leonardo DiCaprio acquired the rights to turn the story into a feature film, and he plans to play Dr. H. H. Holmes, the serial killer.

"A wonderfully unexpected book... Larson is a historian... with a novelist's soul."
--Chicago Sun-Times Review

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Have you read any outstanding books lately, specifically something outside the genre in which you write?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It takes a village to raise a writer

What a week! Critique partners Faith Pray and Jennifer Mann each gave me beautiful direction, for which I'm grateful, early in the week. Thursday night, I zipped over to Seattle Pacific University where Writers House agent Brianne Johnson kicked off the first of this season's SCBWI Western Washington Professional Series Meetings. She returned Friday for manuscript consultations and a delicious, detail-rich talk about writing middle-grade novels. Then, as if my brain wasn't full enough, Field's End hosted bestselling author Ann Hood who shared concrete revision tips at her Saturday lecture, titled "How to be Your Own Best Editor."

Now I need to process and start mining it all as I dig back into my manuscript. I am fired up, bloggy friends! Time to write!

How about you? Has a critique partner, a class, a conference, a workshop, or a book on craft recently given you major help or inspiration? Do tell! Feel free to give a shout-out to your critique partners!

*I should note that if you ever have the opportunity to hear either Brianne Johnson or Ann Hood speak, leap on it!

Monday, September 29, 2014

So you want to be a racehorse--or an author

A weekend trip to Emerald Downs with my husband and my dad made me come to an odd conclusion: the advice one might give to a racehorse (in bold below) can also be applied to writers. Really! I know it sounds more than a little weird, but just go with it.

Take your training seriously. Practice, practice, practice.
Respect craft, and do whatever you can to get your writing to the next level. Take classes, go to conferences, and write, whether you feel your muse or not. Keep office hours.

Figure out how you can eliminate distractions. Some horses use blinkers (blinders) to help with focus.
If the Internet is a problem for you, limit how often you check e-mail, Facebook, etc. I usually write at home, but I'll work in a coffee shop if I'm getting distracted by a home to-do list or if I feel working elsewhere will help me make the most of my writing time.

Don't feel bad about being a long shot.
Remember J.K. Rowling wasn't always a sure thing.

If you see someone else's tail in front of you, you're following instead of leading.
Don't chase trends. By the time it's clear that something is a trend, it's probably too late to start writing about it.

Don't put yourself out to pasture too early.
Never give up.

If you don't run the race, you can't win the race.
Again, never give up. Keep trying!

Cross your hooves that you'll get a good position in the gate so you can come out strong.
Timing can be a b*tch. Sometimes it seems everyone came up with the same idea you did. It's not fun when this happens, but try to remember that no writing is wasted. The market is cyclical, and you can put your manuscript in the drawer for the future. Otherwise, you can use parts of it for other stories or consider it extra practice. Trust me when I say I know this is easier said than done.

Don't eat moldy carrots, and remember that grains help keep you regular.
Just saying.

Polish your horseshoes.
You never know when you'll get a bit of unexpected luck.

Establish a good track record.
Be professional.

Experiment to figure out your strengths.
Just as some horses do better in long races than short ones, some writers are better at novels instead of picture books. Also, while horses handle various track conditions, writers can play with genre.

Remember your inner-filly to tap into her wild spirit.
If you write for young people, think about what it felt like to be one rather than writing from your grown-up perspective. Also, try to recall what you were reading when you figured out you were a writer. I was reading books by E. B. White and Beverly Cleary. By age eleven, I was hooked on Walter Farley's Black Stallion series, which you may have guessed. These same books still light a fire for me. 

Work with the best trainers and jockeys that you can.
Join SCBWI if you write for children or young adults to learn from the pros.

Keep smiling, and don't be a naysayer--or neighsayer--unless you're a horse, of course!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

What's Hot at Eagle Harbor Book Company

Seattle currently has blue skies and a strange, bright orb shining down and heating the area. How weird is that?! Yet the weather isn't the only thing that's hot around here. Victoria from Eagle Harbor Book Company let me in on which books sold best this week so I could share the top reads with you. Yes, siree, we're talkin' 'bout what's hot in children's and YA at Eagle Harbor Book Company!

You'll notice John Green's books pop up quite a bit on the list. Since Green is kind of like money (and he sells a heckuva lot of books) or perhaps envy (again, he sells a heckuva lot of books), maybe I have to rethink my name. I know! I should write under Dawn Sellsaheckuvalotofbooks! And here I was foolishly working on craft when all I needed was a new nom de plume! Tee-hee!

Of course, it's not about the money for us. I mean, becoming a writer isn't exactly the best get-rich-quick scheme. Another "of course"? John Green is an amazing writer. Yeah, let's disregard the new-name idea and go back to focusing on craft.

Moving on!

This week's list, starting with #1! Ready. Set. Go!

by John Green

by Gary Blackwood

THE SASQUATCH ESCAPE/The Imaginary Veterinary: Book 1
written by Suzanne Selfors and illustrated by Dan Santat
(Woot! Woot! for Suzanne!)

written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

by Scott O'Dell

by John Green

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (movie cover version)
by John Green

by Markus Zusak

by John Skewes

written by Jane O'Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

by John Green

*Summer reading title for a local school

Bookseller Victoria noted that THE FAULT IN OUR STARS was #2 for all best sellers in the store. BOYS IN THE BOAT was #1, and CUCKOO'S CALLING was #3. THE ILIAD is also high up on this week's overall best sellers list because of a local school's summer reading.

More info from Victoria:
-The bookstore is hosting a Young Adult/New Adult NW Summer Book Tour event on Sunday, August 3, at 3 p.m. The event will feature eight local writers of these genres. "They will do a panel discussion about their work, and how they draw the line between YA and NA." There will be door prizes.

-Eagle Harbor Book Company has also started a graphic novel summertime book group for kids who are 6-10 years old. Victoria said the first meeting on July 10 was a blast. "We had Dav Pilkey pop in to join Sue Nevins (bookseller from across the water and kids' graphic novel specialist) and the fabulous Dana Sullivan! The kids were rockin', too." Here are some pics from the event. (Dav is on the left, Dana's on the right. Dana, LET ME KNOW the next time you have an event at EHBC!)

This is part of the storyboard the kids came up with while working with Dav and Dana.

Victoria said, "If there are graphic artists among your readers who'd like to join us for one of our weekly sessions and work with the kids, we'd love to be in touch!"

-Kirby Larson will be at the bookstore in late August to launch her new book, DASH.

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Thank you, Victoria, for passing along so much great information! I always find it interesting to learn what's selling locally.

Blog friends, what are you currently reading? I'm reading GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn.